Don’t tell Craig Wetzel that you’ll write a biographical sketch about him if he doesn’t because he’ll take you up on your threat. His only condition was that he would never read this essay. This means, of course, that I had free license to write what I want, which is probably a good thing as he would HATE this sketch.
Craig is the most creative person I know as well as one of the most educated. He’s a true renaissance man: a talented storyteller, musician, artist, artisan, and scholar of many subjects. He has a 5,000-volume personal library, reads French, studies early American history, and has the complete works of Shakespeare stored on his phone so that he always has something to read.
All of that is impressive but it’s even more impressive when one learns that he’s completely self-taught. No one taught him how to compose music, paint, or write side-splitting stories. He has a can-do attitude, wanted to learn these things, and set out to do them. Sometimes I think it would be great fun (and a bit scary) to live inside Craig’s mind because ideas seem to pop out of him without cessation.
Craig was born on July 29, 1964 in East Liverpool, Ohio, a small town on the Ohio River. As a child, he was primarily interested in fishing and playing in streams, which demonstrates that good things come from letting kids play in creeks and explore nature. I’ve known him since middle school days; we graduated from high school together. Back then, he was zany and quick-witted and didn’t take school very seriously. I think he was bored with it as most highly intelligent, creative people are. He was never one to boast; my first inkling about his intelligence was when I learned that he knew hundreds of birds by sight and sound and he could paint beautiful murals without ever taking an art class.
Craig has worked as a professional painter (e.g., walls) as well as a commissioned fine arts artist for most of his adult life. His passion is learning, discovering, and creating. He has three children: two girls that have been described by former teachers as “smart, delightful, and creative”; and one son who is beyond-smart, super cute, and best of all, so well-raised that he picked up the toys he’d played with all over my mother’s living room floor without being asked. Craig has attended the same church since childhood and has many deep friendships that he’s sustained over his lifetime. He is hard-working, thinks deeply, does nothing in moderation, is not swayed in order to gain popular approval, and doesn’t mince words with his observations.
Craig’s influences are diverse: they include Shakespeare, old movies, Mark Twain, and the Andy Griffith show. He particularly delights in small town life and loves sharing his characters with others. My only sadness with this webpage and Sycamore Shadows is that I can’t meet the people to whom he’s introduced me.
I encourage you to get to know Craig through his websites and leave comments if you’re so inclined. One of the things that I like the most about the Imaginactory website is the little details that are easy to overlook but that catch you by surprise. I find myself studying his creations for the myriad little details (e.g., the historical sign marker for Sycamore Shadows) because they always gift me with a smile. Please explore Craig’s music, painting, and stories. You won’t be sorry and I guarantee you’ll be entertained.
Aug. 31, 2011